Weekly Roundup: April 15-19, 2019
GAO Invests in Science Capacity. Federal News Network reports: “The Government Accountability Office . . . requested a funding increase of $57.8 million more than it received in fiscal 2019, for a total of $647.6 million . . . Part of that increased budget . . . would go toward the agency’s new Science, Technology, Assessment and Analytics Team, built on top of the capabilities that GAO already has. That’s part of his first priority: Increasing the speed and capability of GAO to evaluate science and technology issues for Congress.”
Laws Based on Nothing. Two economists, John List and Eszler Czibor, write in Government Executive: “For many economists, nothing is more exasperating than watching well-intentioned policies fall short because they were based on ideology, gut judgment, or something else besides sound evidence . . . Rather than rolling their eyes at these failures, citizens should look more closely at why it is so much harder to base policies on hard information than on pure intuition.”
Coding It Forward. In a column for FCW, Steve Kelman writes about an organic civic tech organization: “It is incredibly impressive – these are , after all, just a bunch of college students – how Coding It Forward has created an infrastructure to work on the nuts and bolts [of government]. . . . A look at Coding It Forward's website shows how the group makes this program attractive to students, advertising it as "a new pipeline into public service for technology students."
Agencies Step Up to AI. Federal Times reports: “The government as a whole doesn’t have a set strategy for how they plan to prepare federal workers for the changes that artificial intelligence will cause in their jobs, but agencies are on board with individual efforts to educate and train their own workforces, according to Lynne Parker, assistant director for artificial intelligence at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.”
NIH Develops Employee Analytic Tool. Federal News Network reports: “Faced with too much data, senior leaders at NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) developed a tool to more quickly parse through the results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) from the Office of Personnel Management. . . . Now, with help from top leaders in the Trump administration, they’re on a mission to share the tool with the rest of government.”
Pulling the Plug. Federal News Network reports: “As of now, the IT infrastructure that supports the Navy’s manpower and training needs is made up of 55 separate systems. Ten of those are at least 30 years old, and incremental upgrades over time have only made them more complex and expensive to maintain. The software they run is written in 21 different programming languages, riding on nine different operating systems spread across 73 data centers and networks. . . . and officials believe the commercial architecture that’s about to replace them will open the door to a modern, app-based personnel system.”
Mission Matters. Government Executive reports: “When it comes to recruiting top talent, federal agencies may have a hard time competing with the private sector on compensation and efficiency of the hiring process, but most have one great advantage: mission. . . . In a world where people want to feel as if they’re contributing to a greater cause, there’s no better place to look for mission-driven work than a government agency.”
Fears of Artificial Intelligence. AI pioneer Jim Hendler writes in Government Executive: “Artificial intelligence systems can – if properly used – help make government more effective and responsive, improving the lives of citizens. Improperly used, however, the dystopian visions of George Orwell’s “1984” become more realistic. . . . In their own and urged by a new presidential executive order, governments across the U.S., including state and federal agencies, are exploring ways to use AI technologies.